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Crawling Out from the Dungeon

Crawling Out from the Dungeon

Postby aaquater » Fri Apr 23, 2021 9:57 pm

Route description: Druim an Aird, near Laggan

Grahams included on this walk: Creag Ruadh (Kinloch Laggan)

Date walked: 17/04/2021

Time taken: 4.75 hours

Distance: 17.3 km

Ascent: 781m

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*the Druim an Aird walk itself is in the latter part of this report

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Not too far, not too high up, not too big, and not too popular - I've learnt to be careful when planning the first walk of the season, and this season, it was probably even more important, considering it was the first weekend after the leashes had been taken off. (Fair enough, it had been allowed to move within the local authority area for a few weeks, and the same had happened in autumn too, but that's not saying much when the area doesn't extend past the city limits.) Call it my man cave, call it a dungeon, wherever I'd been holed up in, this was the first breath of fresh air after months, in a sense way too literal for my liking. And given that the walk should take me to the ruins of a fort, and perhaps also a deserted village, speaking of dungeons is only all too fitting. :lol:

Several reports detail the ascent of Creag Ruadh, but for some reason, none of them describe the ascent from the south, where the Druim an Aird car park serves as the starting point for the described walks to the village and the Dun da-Lamh fort, and I would've expected it to be used for the Graham too. Let me be the first, then! :D

Across the road from the car park, a short stretch on a boggy path leads to a track running under the S slopes of Creag Ruadh. I turned right and stayed on the track until the end, not turning left on another track leading onto the ridge, nor onto a waymarked path promising to take me to the fort. Eventually, the track morphed into a boggy path, turning less boggy as it started heading uphill and entered the forest.

The 'ridge-reaching' track I wouldn't take, across a lochan near Feagour

The path enters the woods

The uphill part lasted only for a few metres before a sort-of plateau was reached, the path going over several bumps, seemingly unable to decide if up or down was the way to go. But the former prevailed in the end, and so the ascent continued. And speaking of waymarking, this path featured a blue arrow-sporting pole, too. :eh: :think:

My map suggested I should cross a track and continue onto a path. At one point, a rocky path was shooting off to the right, but there was no continuation on the left; indeed, that was not the track, as I came across it a few minutes later. And as for the path I followed next... the online map has it right here; the 'path' is a track almost all the way up to the ridge, where it turns into a proper path for the steepest section.

Tracks going left and right

The forest dressed in 3 different colours, and it's not even November... With some degree of imagination (or perhaps colour-blindness), this may look like a slanted flag of Belgium, or maybe an upside-down flag of Sierra Leone

From the junction, reaching the fort took only a couple minutes. A path led diagonally across the outer wall, reaching the top and continuing along it, the elevation and lack of trees around providing me with views all around. On the way back, however, I didn't notice the diagonal path and continued along the wall; only later on, I realised I had to turn around, looking for a way down the wall and back to the junction. :clap: :lol:

Back along Strath Mashie; the hill on the right is the 565 m top where I'd be heading next; the true summit of Creag Ruadh is hidden behind

The north: the Monadhliath Geal Charn and Meall na h-Aisre

Towards the origins of the Spey beyond the reservoir

Is there a dungeon hidden below...?

Taking the 'Hilltop' path, I was concerned at first when the path seemed to head too north and too downhill for my liking. But as tends to be the case, after a short while, both features corrected themselves, and the path led me up the heathery/piny hillside, as expected. Perhaps I should learn not to pass judgements on paths in the first minute I'm on them. :shifty:

Another thing, and this comes down to not paying attention to the map properly, I knew I'd have to leave the path when it started to leave the ridge, but I thought this would happen a lot sooner than it did in reality. The path doesn't leave the ridge until shortly after it passes the 565 m top - and the top is forest-free; when you've reached it, you'll know.

Looking ahead, Creag Ruadh straight in front, with the Creag Meagaidh and the Laggan Geal Charn groups beyond, both with icing on top

Time to leave the path now

Thus, I carried on along the ridge, towards what I could see in front of me: the 558 m top and the main 622 m summit. Pathless now - well, mostly, at least; unless I was just hallucinating, I could've sworn I was still following paths of some sort. At some point, a fence appeared on my right, and further on, another had to be crossed; fortunately, a hole (one that new rolls of fences suggested was just about to be filled?) provided easy access to the other side.

Should I imitate a trained dolphin, jumping headfirst through a metal ring? ...nah, it takes some contortionism, but it's crossable as is. But to cross without ripping the crotch of the trousers open, a higher level of contortionism has to be applied. (picture taken after crossing)

From now on, the fenceline doesn't pose such problems, and functions sort of as a substitute for a path

Well, 'fenceline'... perhaps too grand a word for a line of old, rusty rods, with nothing connecting them. But following the whatever-it-is, I made it to the 558 m top, from where I could see both where I'd been and what was still ahead.

The ridge behind me

The hill in front of me

The 558 top is quite steep, so I had to follow the same route up and down. From there, the 'fenceline' heads straight for the Graham summit, but the ground forms several 'stairs' in between the top and the bealach, at least two of which were openly threatening me with dihydrogen monoxide. Opting to avoid the threats, I edged left across some surprisingly steep ground (at least in terms of my expectations for this walk) until I reached more solid surfaces, after which it was just a 20-minute push up the final slope to reach the trig.

The same view as above, but from 600 metres further. I regret nothing; it's delicious

Loch na Lairige and views to the Monadhliath Geal Charn

The snow only seemed to keep above 800 m, so at 622, there was no trace of it. And despite being a little windy, it wasn't cold enough to put on a jacket, even as I crossed the summit area to start descending west towards a clear track. No hallucinations here; this section was truly pathless. But thanks to the views in front of me, maybe I just didn't focus on the ground enough! :D

One more western panorama, this time from the track

Can anyone spot a path?

Following the track, as the map indicates, a fence has to be crossed 3 times. Which was fine, but the fact that each gate was kept shut by multiple mechanisms initially startled me a little. Half a year's hillwalking withdrawal symptoms? But seriously, the first 2 gates featured 2 mechanisms each, and the last one even had 3; if opening gates was a hillwalking minigame (and it certainly feels that way sometimes), this gate would be the final boss. :lol:

Its position only gives such comparisons more ground, as the track ends randomly by a pylon shortly after the last gate - but only a short descent through a wooded area was required to reach the A86. And crossing another fence, but I opted not to at first, hoping to continue next to it, which (except for one small boggy bit right at the start) looked quite promising. But the situation changed as I was approaching Inverpattack Lodge, a much wider and harder-to-bypass bog forcing me to hop over and reach the car park along the main road.

Looking back to the 558 m top

Looking ESE to the hills separating me from the A889

That was the first circuit. The extra one, to Druim an Aird, was an option I could use if I wanted to, if I finished the first one and didn't feel like heading home just yet. ('If I wanted to'; no more of 'If I had the time'. Such developments are really quick to get used to. :wink: ) And that's exactly what happened, so I took the path heading west, following the walk description.

Now, the description talks about signed paths and waymarked junctions. If the markings are still there, I'd missed them. But only one path leads from the car park, the junction looks as described (bar the marking), and the paths are clear throughout; I might've been guessing, but it wasn't that hard to guess right. On top of that, the first 2 stages of the description, all the way to the footpath signed for 'Dalwhinnie', cover a small expanse of land, and are thus quite detailed - so the first junction that might look like the right one, will be the right one.

The path snaking its way between pines

Then came the open ground with timber underfoot. The description says the path can be hard to find, but I could follow it pretty well the whole time (which is saying something). Maybe that's because it was April, and so the foliage hadn't had much time to grow all over it. On the other hand, the path often got extremely boggy - so it wasn't about following it so much as it was about keeping track of it whilst I tried to find a way across that wouldn't have me sinking down to my waist. (Maybe April could be to blame for that, too?) Given all of my zombie talk... well, perhaps I wouldn't have become a true zombie, but I'm not sure how much of an improvement turning into a swamp monster instead would've been. :crazy:

The land here is quite treacherous (as I'm looking back up Creag Ruadh, whose main summit has hidden away)

The going, thus, was slow. Add in the fact that I'd been 'spoilt' by how quickly I'd cleared the previous stages, and when a fence appeared on my left (and minutely on my right, as it had collapsed and I spied drier ground on the other side), I started expecting Druim an Aird to appear just behind it. I had to remind myself that the powerlines and the forest had to come first.

And they did, eventually, after the path had bent to the right. When entering the forest, the first thing that changes is that the path becomes much wider - but later on, as I was approaching the village ruins, it became drier too, making for a pleasant forest walk.

The forest path. Clear? Certainly. Good? ...give it a minute. I mean, literally

Druim an Aird and the hills beyond; Beinn Eilde is prominent, while the snow cap makes the Laggan Geal Charn blend into the clouds

From then on, it was just good tracks and good paths, so getting back was no problem at all. Spotting the fence I'd walked past ahead is how I recognised where to leave the track, and recognising path junctions wasn't even needed as I took a 'shortcut' and found myself back at the beginning for the 3rd time.

Creag Meagaidh is really photogenic

Not a big walk, but given the circumstances, just about enough... some ascents I managed okay, on others I found myself scarily out of shape, and the occasions were switching around quite randomly, so it was hard to judge how out of shape I actually was. But with the prospect of follow-up walks now... am I de-zombified? At the very least, de-zombification has successfully been initiated. Next, please! :D
Posts: 55
Munros:50   Corbetts:29
Grahams:23   Donalds:12
Sub 2000:30   
Joined: Jul 8, 2019

Re: Crawling Out from the Dungeon

Postby gld73 » Tue Apr 27, 2021 6:11 pm

I did this hill yesterday, should have done your longer and more interesting route but I wimped out and took the shorter option from the north as the weather had turned rubbish!
Posts: 667
Munros:157   Corbetts:64
Grahams:54   Donalds:10
Sub 2000:76   Hewitts:45
Wainwrights:68   Islands:13
Joined: Aug 11, 2015
Location: Inverness

Re: Crawling Out from the Dungeon

Postby aaquater » Wed Apr 28, 2021 8:33 pm

gld73 wrote:I did this hill yesterday, should have done your longer and more interesting route but I wimped out and took the shorter option from the north as the weather had turned rubbish!

That's what the northern approach has going for it, I suppose; it's the way to go when you want to reach the top as soon as possible! :)
Posts: 55
Munros:50   Corbetts:29
Grahams:23   Donalds:12
Sub 2000:30   
Joined: Jul 8, 2019

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